Nov 23, 2023

Black History Month at iwoca: Saluting our sisters

5

min read

Black History Month at iwoca: Saluting our sisters

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In honour of this year's Saluting Our Sisters theme, we were excited to feature insights from some incredible female iwocans who generously shared their thoughts with us. Writing thought-provoking posts, the group responded to a variety of questions submitted by their fellow iwocans. 

In this post we share some of the most compelling highlights from the blogs, showcasing the diverse perspectives and experiences within our community.

Who are your most influential sisters you would like to salute this BHM?

Deslyn, Technical Integration Manager in TAP, said: “One amazing woman I would like to salute is Mary Seacole. She is one of my favourite Black-British historical figures, and has been ever since I heard about her back when I was in Year 2! She was a Jamaican-Born "Doctress" who after hearing about the plight of British soldiers fighting in the Crimean War, decided to use her nursing skills to support them. 

“She approached the British War Office and offered to help but unfortunately due to racist attitudes at the time, and despite having a reputation as a very competent healthcare professional, she was turned away. Determined to help out regardless, she paid her own fare and made her way to Crimea. Once there, she opened the "British Hotel" with a friend and used this as a base to provide care for recovering and sick soldiers. 

“Aside from her nursing career, Mary was also a businesswoman and traveller whose book "Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands" about her solo travels became the first-ever autobiography published by a free black woman in the British empire. Her story is one of determination (even in the face of rejection), resilience and the power of kindness and looking out for others and that is why I am saluting her!

“I would also love to salute all of the amazing black women here at iwoca: those I have had the honour of working with, those I get to call my friends and those who I have never worked with but admire from afar.”

What does Black History Month mean to you? 

Ariel, Frontend Developer in TAP, said: “To me, Black History Month is a chance to relearn the history of my ancestry. An opportunity to discover the incredible impact and contributions of Black people from our past and the ones shaping today's world. 

“Growing up in a Caribbean environment, which is predominantly considered Black, the educational narrative revolved primarily around the dark chapters of slavery and colonisation. Our perception of ourselves and our collective history was marred by oppression and subjugation, with this era lasting until just the past 70 to 80 years, roughly speaking.

“But Black History Month is a chance to hit the refresh button on our story. It's not about forgetting the past, but rather rewriting the narrative of who we are and where we belong. One cool thing about its impact today is how it's shining a spotlight on Black leaders in varying fields. It's not just about looking Back; it's about celebrating the ongoing contributions of Black people to our culture, boosting pride and identity for us as individuals, and also making our society more inclusive by recognising the crucial role Black history plays in shaping today's world."

Who is an influential Black figure that you admire or find inspiring? 

Sharon, Sales Executive in 3PS, said: “Edward Enniful - a creative genius. As someone who once dreamed of being a creative director in a fashion magazine, Edward’s resilience got him to where he is today. 

“He is the first Black editor-in-chief of any Vogue magazine and so is also the first Black editor-in-chief of British Vogue and European Editorial director of Condé Nast! At the age of 17, he became the fashion director of i-D magazine turning the magazine into a global industry leader in the world of fashion, culture and identity. As Editor in Chief of British Vogue, he reshaped the landscape of the magazine by embracing its rich heritage and seamlessly blending it with contemporary fashion. With his innovative genius, he set out to make British Vogue a timeless symbol of elegance, sophistication, and individuality, setting the benchmark for quality and innovation across fashion, beauty, and lifestyle. 

“I am also touched by his lifelong battle with sickle cell, with my friend having this same disease and witnessing its harmful effects. I was happy to see Edward Enniful lead a full and happy life without limitations.”

What are your Black History Month recommended reads?

Hahoua, Sales Executive in 3PS, said: “I love reading and struggled to shortlist all my favourites, instead here’s a list of 10 fiction and non-fiction books written by incredible Black writers. I'd also recommend looking up Merky books, a publishing partnership with Penguin, owned by Black-British rapper Stormzy, with many amazing up and coming young creatives!”

Non Fiction:

  • Audre Lorde - Sister Outsider
  • Constance Briscoe - Ugly
  • David Olusoga - Black and British: A Forgotten History
  • Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff - Black Joy
  • Emma Dabiri - Don't Touch My Hair

Fiction:

  • Octavia E. Butler - Kindred
  • Toni Morrison - The Bluest Eye
  • Homegoing - Yaa Gyasi
  • Alice Walker - The Color Purples
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Half of a Yellow Sun 

What does Black History Month mean to you? 

Janet, Broker Mentor in 3PS, said: “ I think this may be quite a controversial perspective, but as a Black Woman, every month is Black History Month and it's honestly just another month being myself and being Black. 

“I think Black History Month is more for non-Black individuals. It's a great opportunity for them to celebrate and acknowledge Black culture and people. A chance to remember Black history, engage with the Black community and educate themselves. It's a Month where predominantly non-Black groups make an active effort to engage with the Black community and our struggles to help move their companies, communities and society into a utopia-like world.

“Don't get me wrong, it's absolutely amazing to have a month centred around Black people and culture where our voices can be heard and we are recognised, love that for us. However, it would be far more impactful if this acknowledgement, celebration and focus extended past the month of October and real, long lasting changes and initiatives were put in place and sustained, so we wouldn't need a Month for Black History.” 

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